Photos by Doug Berger
Portland, Oregon ? If you?ve ever had a dream about getting to drive a whole bunch of really cool cars, one after another, you should have been with me a couple of weeks ago.
Each year, one of the automotive writer?s groups I belong to, the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), has an event we call ?Run to the Sun.? This year the members who organized the program out-did themselves by signing up 25 outstanding cars, with a total value of $2.3 million, for the drive program.
The first day of the drive started in Portland and went through the Cascade Mountain forests and lava fields to spend the night in the western-themed town of Sisters, Oregon on the east side of the Cascades. The second day the drive went further east into Oregon?s expansive high desert area stopping in places like Shaniko and Maupin before returning down the Columbia River Gorge to Portland.
Each automotive journalist drove each car about 15 to 20 miles before stopping and switching to the next one in the rotation, before finally driving all 25 cars.
This year fleet was the best ever with cars like the BMW i8, Rolls Royce Wraith, Nissan GT-R, Dodge Viper, Bentley Continental GT Convertible, Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Mercedes-Benz S550.
Here?s the basic information and pricing on each car in alphabetical order, along with a quick observation about each:
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe
1.75-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 237 horsepower, 258-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed twin clutch automatic transmission, Brembo brakes and rear-wheel drive. 0 to 60 4.2 seconds. 24 mpg city /34 mpg highway.
Base price $53,900 plus $1,295 destination. Six options including leather, convenience package, racing exhaust and biXenon headlights. The price as tested $64,045.
The legendary Alfa Romeo brand has been absent from the U.S. for nearly two decades, but it?s back as part of the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. This coupe is small, difficult to get into, but well worth the effort. The 4C has a maximum handling prowess and is a blast to drive. It is the essence of a pure sports car ? simple, but very functional.
2014 Audi S4 quattro S tronic Sedan
3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 333-hp, 325-lb.ft. of torque, seven-speed S-tronic automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 5.4 seconds.18/28 mpg.
Base price $49,500 plus $895 destination. It had three options including paint, MMI Navigation and quattro with sports differential. Price as tested $55,045.
I?m a sedan person, and the Audi S4 is my kind of car — fast, comfortable, excellent handling and somewhat stealthy in appearance. I also like the size ? it?s great for a couple, but you can take two or three others along when necessary.
2014 Bentley Continental GT Convertible V-8
4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, 521-hp and 502-lb.ft. of torque, eight speed ZF automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 4.6 seconds. 15/24 mpg.
Base price $216,200 plus $2,725 destination. 18 options including Sports Exhaust, neck warmer, Naim premium audio, massage seats and many cosmetic upgrades. Price as tested, including a $1,000 gas guzzler tax, $251,070.
My wife, Barbara, and I tested the Speed version of this same car earlier this year with its 616-hp W12 engine. (https://ourautoexpert.com/2014-bentley-continental-gt-speed-convertible-test-drive/). This new V-8 version is just as awesome and elegant. It?s a big car, but magically agile, great sounding and surprisingly fast in a smooth silky sort of way.
2014 BMW i8 (Hybrid) Sports Car
BMW 1.5-liter TwinPower three-cylinder engine, 228-hp, 236-lb.ft. of torque and Electric motor 129-hp, 184-lb.ft. of torque. Total 357-hp and 420-lb.ft. of torque. Two-speed front automatic transmission, six-speed rear automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 4.4 seconds. 88/90 mpg.
Price as tested $136,650, including the destination charge. Only three options available two leather packages and a limited edition 2014/2015 package. Other wheels are a no charge option.
The BMW i8 is truly unique from the ?scissor? doors that open up to the extreme body styling to the futuristic hybrid drivetrain with two transmissions, all-wheel drive and a three-cylinder engine. This was obviously the most unusual car on the drive, and certainly one of the most impressive vehicles I?ve driven recently. I?d like more time in it, to try to understand how it works?another bit of BMW magic I presume.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 272-hp, 295-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed automatic transmission, magnetic ride control, Brembo brakes and rear-wheel drive. 0-60 5.6 seconds.18/28 mpg
Base price $37,995 plus $995 destination. Only one option on the test car — heated front seats. Price as tested $39,440.
This new smallest Cadillac coupe caught me off guard. This was my first drive in the new sexy coupe and I thought it was impressive on all counts: looks, comfort, performance, handling, fuel economy, technology?and when I discovered it had a four-cylinder engine and are priced under $40,000, I was in shock.
2014 Chevrolet SS Sedan
6.2-liter V-8, 415-hp, 415-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed automatic transmission, front Brembo brakes, rear-wheel drive. (It has an available six-speed manual transmission). 0 to 60 mph 4.5 seconds. Fuel economy 14/21mpg.
Base price $44,475 plus $995 destination charge and $1,300 gas guzzler tax. Only one available option a $900 power sunroof.
The SS was another car that surprised me; it?s something of a throwback to the old rear-wheel drive SS models. I didn?t get to drive this in the corners, but it feels like it could handle itself quite well, there too. A bit large for my personal taste, but impressive?
Base price of the model S starts at $24,495 or $28,695 for the AWD model, plus the destination charge of $995. This car had four options groups including comfort, navigation/sound, lighting and wheels. Price as tested $33,470.
The Chrysler 200 was a fill-in part way through the drive when one of the other vehicles had some transmission irregularities. The 200 is a great new competitor in the mid-size sedan group. Barbara and I reviewed this same car recently at https://ourautoexpert.com/2015-chrysler-200s-awd-test-drive/
2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Coupe
6.2-liter Supercharged HEMI Hellcat V-8, 707-hp, 650-lb.ft. of torque, Torqueflight eight-speed automatic transmission, Brembo brakes and rear-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 3.7 seconds. 13/22 mpg.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat has a base price of $59,595 plus a destination charge of $995. Our test car options included leather seats, eight-speed automatic transmission, Uconnect communications and Pirelli PZERO tires. With the $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax the price as tested was $65,470.
When it comes to muscle cars or pony cars, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat is the new sheriff in town. It is scary fast, handles much better expected and yet it remarkable civilized and easy to drive. It comes with two keys, the black one which limits your horsepower to 500 and the red one that unleashes all 707 of the ponies. An amazing car for someone wanting to own the fastest car. Barbara and I reviewed the new Dodge Challenger recently at https://ourautoexpert.com/2015-dodge-challenger-test-drive/.
2014 Dodge SRT Viper Coupe
8.4-liter V-10, 645-hp, 600-lb.ft. of torque, Tremec six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 3.5 seconds. 12/19 mpg.
Dodge dropped the price of the SRT Viper Coupe by $15,000 in September 2014 to a base price of $84,885 with a destination charge of $1,995. A customer preferred package (21H) and the $2,600 gas guzzler tax make the price as tested $105,480.
This is another one of those cars that is scary fast. The Viper is more like a racecar than anything I?ve driven and it accelerates and corners better than nearly any car built. On the flip side, it?s a challenge to drive and it?s rough, noisy and hard to get in and out of. The recent model is certainly nicer inside though, but it still doesn?t overcome the fact that this is a racecar. This car takes a very special owner.
Check www.iveho.com for Run to the Sun ? Part 2